Tom and Linda's 2011 Europe Trip

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The Amalfi Coast

Friday, 30 September: Sorrento, Italy, The Amalfi Coast

This morning we rented an Aprillia Scarabeo 250cc scooter, 50 euro a day plus gas, and rode the heck out of it!

The rental office was in the Hotel Nice, and we had checked it out the evening before. After a leasurely breakfast, we went there to sign the paperwork, then went to find a Bancomat. This is the guy riding it in for us.


We left Sorrento about 10AM and headed east toward Positano, where the real Amalfi Coast Road starts. It is a stunning drive, and we certainly picked the right way to see it. This is certainly one of our lasting memories of the trip.



It was a bit like US Hwy1 along the west coast, but more so. The road closely follows the coast, occasionally diving into a little town ("commune") where the road gets narrower and the traffic a little heavier.

For the most part, the paving was in excellent shape and it was a joy to ride.


Although we were going east in the morning and west in the afternoon, it wasn't as bad as we had feared.

Of course the road winds a lot, so we were quite often not going in the cardinal direction, and were also often in the shade of the cliffs or trees.


You can see the road winding away behind me, about halfway up the hillside.


There were occasional turnouts for cars - some of them barely big enough for a Smart (there were a lot of those), but a scooter could get away with stopping almost anywhere. And we did.



Tom started the trip with his camera in the trip trunk, but soon ended up wearing it. New striking vistas around every curve, and it was too much trouble to get it out every time.





As the road approaches a commune, it generally gets more steep and winding, making its way down toward the beaches and the main streets.



Steps up and down from the road led to homes, hotels, restaurants, even little shops.

And on the road the tourists stop to gape at the stunning land- and sea-scapes, and bring money in to the community so the people can make it through another winter.


Glad we weren't in a bus! They had to back up and try this again several times. We waited.



Tiered lemon groves up the cliff above us and down the one below. We also saw oranges, olives, grapes and other things.

Their owners' houses either rose up out of the rocks above, or had little tiled parking areas just off the road on the downhill side. These parking areas were frequently on the roofs of their houses.


In this case, the pulloff was just a place to stop while the gate opened, and there is a driveway down the hill.


The road was in excellent condition - newly paved, nicely edged on the drop-off side, some new tunnels replacing what used to be tightly winding narrow roads along the promontories.

Steep stairs right off the road to a house up the cliff with barely enough room to park a tiny scooter at the bottom was not unusual, and the gate on the downhill side looks like it just opens on air..


There were lots of old churches with brightly-colored tile domes and facades. Many bars (selling snacks and coffee) right along the roadside, with sidewalk tables.



Lots of ancient stone walls, and signal towers along the coast from the 10th century or so. Fires were set by the towns to warn each other of Turkish pirate raids, and the signal passed quickly along the coast.

Many of these signal towers, usually on these points of land extending into the Tyrrhenian Sea, have been turned to other uses. This one has some sort of little building on it. Others had been used as foundations for hotels and such. You can just see the swimming pool down on the other side.


I understand Gore Vidal used to live in one of these white cliff-side villas, and Rudolf Nureyev once owned the two islands that separate the Bay of Naples from the Bay of Salerno.

Those villas down off the road would certainly afford a lot of privacy, except maybe from the water side. I expect the view is quite different from a boat.



Just before a tunnel, on the side of the road, we discovered this little town model. It was truly impressive.



There were even little goldfish living in the water.




Fantasy castle hotels reach down toward the sea with swimming pools a few levels above the neatly-spaced umbrellas on the pebble beaches.




There were ceramic factories everywhere selling solid ceramic table tops 30" in diameter and 1" thick, all hand-painted.


This is probably a magnificent home, built into the cliff and straight up from the highway.


We decided to take a break from the road in the commune of Amalfi.



There was a bit of a traffic jam getting into town.


Amalfi's town square with its tiled cathedral.

Gelaterias, expensive women's clothing, ceramics outlets, churches that neighborhoods have grown right up to.

Marble column bases and crowns used as building blocks. Spring-fed ornate courtyard fountains.

And scooters - swarms of them - moving through and around traffic. Lots of 3-wheeled trucks.


Beautiful local ceramic tile decorates the clock tower.



Street-side gelateria



Town square from the top of the cathedral steps


This house was built right up against the old cathedral.


Ornate copper doors


Tour buses parked on Amalfi's waterfront


Back to the scooter, which we'd left parked in an out-of-the-way corner, and we headed back out to the road.


And on west along the coast.



Another signal tower used as foundation, another beautiful pebble beach, and a tiered lemon grove.



The grey-leafed trees are olives.


Quick break at a cafe in Minori, a bit inland from the coast, and a check with my Rick Steves Italy guide on my Kindle.I ordered lemonade, and got a glass full of fresh-squeezed lemon juice. Sugar served on the side: sweeten to taste. Wonderful!



These places are bucking the fast-food trend. Slow down, take your time, enjoy your companions and your food. They call it Slowfood.


We did get stuck in heavy traffic in Salerno. That building up ahead caught my eye.


Turns out it was a huge ceramics factory.
I found their story on their website.

The windows are full of huge hand-painted urns, so the tiles cladding the building itself must be like dinner plates. Maybe they ARE dinner plates?


We finally bailed out of the traffic onto the east-bound A3, got stuck there longer than expected and eventually found our way back to the coast road behind the traffic jamb. So we missed Salerno, but it looked busy and industrial anyway.

The highway was a very different way to travel from the beautiful coast road. Italy's take-it-easy facade was discarded, and people were clearly in a hurry.


We certainly saw a lot of beautiful coast.



Nureyev's islands, overlooked by Poseidan.


Private beach. Sorta.




The sun sets over the Bay of Salerno.


And we return to Sorrento.


Back in Positano we decided to take the the longer S-145 rather than the S-163 we'd taken on the way out. It was a nice ride, less busy, but it brought us into the western, more modern side of Sorrento and we got a little lost.

It took a while and a few U-turns to find our way back to the rental place. Luckily, it's close to the train station, so we could follow those signs. When we could find them. And there were a lot of one-way streets to negotiate.

We got back about 30 minutes before they closed for the night. We had rented the scooter for 24 hours, but no time in the morning to turn it in before we had to head back to Rome.

It's just about sunset now and we're back at the Hotel Mignon. Tom's in the shower and I've had mine. We'll go walk around a bit, I think, then come back and pack, ready for an early start tomorrow. Aiming for the 8:26 train to Napoli, and we've got a bit of a pack-loaded walk to the train station.

Watching the cruise ship tours around us here has made me less interested in signing up for any of them on our cruise. Big groups of silly Americans following signs around. Or Germans or Japanese or whatever. Probably mostly Americans.

Carried postcards for friend Jerry and sister Barbara with me all day looking for stamps. Finally found them on our way back from dinner this evening. So the Pompeii cards have been to the Amalfi Coast.


Next, we head back to Rome, the cruise port of Civitavecchia, and meet our fellow travellers on the Scientic American Cruise.


1 Getting There
6 Olympia
11 Ephesus
16 The Cinque Terre
2 Sorrento
7 Santorini (Thira)
12 Athens
17 Pisa & Sienna
3 Pompeii & Herculanium
8 Istanbul
13 Venezia
18 Tuscany
4 The Amalfi Coast
9 Varna & Odessa
14 Padua & Verona
19 Montepulciano
5 Sci-Am Cruise
10 Yalta
15 Firenze
20 Rome & Home

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